I saw two friends while I was in Spring Green. One of them, Keiran Murphy, a Frank Lloyd Wright scholar who works at Taliesin, is a full-time resident. The other, Our Girl, drove up from Chicago on Saturday to pay me a visit and see a show. In between their visits, I retired to the hotel’s hot tub three times a day, read a couple of books about which I’m thinking of writing pieces, bought a wedge of Mrs. T’s favorite cheese, and pegged away at the script of Satchmo at the Waldorf, which needs a modest amount of further nipping and tucking before it opens in New Haven next month.
It wasn’t a vacation–I won’t have time to take one this year–but at least I didn’t have to be anywhere in a hurry. It helped, too, that I was in Spring Green, a very small town (pop. 1,600, more or less) of which I’m deeply fond, and not just because it’s home to Keiran, American Players Theatre, and Taliesin. Something about Spring Green speaks powerfully to me, so much so that my heart lifts each summer when I drive past the city-limits sign. The scale is right, the people agreeable, and there’s even a first-class bookstore. If my life were somehow to arrange itself differently–very differently, to be sure–I could see myself living there.
To dream of pulling up stakes and starting a new life in a new place is one of the most pleasant perks of being a near-ceaseless traveler. Most of the time, of course, it’s nothing more than a fleeting fantasy, not unlike what Rupert Holmes describes in “The People That You Never Get to Love”: And you’ll see him on a train that you’ve just missed/At a bus stop where your bus will never stop. Yet I’ve visited a half-dozen cities, each of them greatly different from the others, in which I found it easy to imagine myself settling down: Chicago, San Diego, Santa Fe, Spring Green, Waco, and Winter Park.
On balance, I suppose that Spring Green is the unlikeliest of the six. I’ve spent the past quarter-century, after all, living in the busiest and grandest of cities, and I’ve grown used to what it has to offer–but maybe that’s part of what makes a place like Spring Green so attractive to an aging small-town boy who has no trouble at all remembering the unassuming joys of the place where he grew up.
Today I fly back to New York, there to see and write about a pair of shows on and off Broadway, and on Thursday I return to Connecticut and Mrs. T. That’s my life, which for the past few months has been reminding me of this speech from Satchmo at the Waldorf:
I had me a beautiful life. Even growing up poor. Didn’t like all of it–how could I? But I always look forward. Always say, “Let’s head for the next town, play the next show, something better gonna be right up ahead.” And it always was.
Me, too, Pops. I don’t like all of my life, either, but it’s beautiful anyway–and there’s always something better right up ahead.
(Second of two parts)